Grand Morocco Adventure Trip notes: EMAA Validity: 01/01/2008 to 31/12/2009 Welcome to Babel Travel’s real life adventures... we hope that you enjoy exploring the world as much as we do. An adventure into the heart of Morocco! You'll journey from the exciting city of Marrakesh, along spectacular coastlines, over the High Atlas Mountains, through the Todra & Dades Gorge to the Sahara Desert Camel Safari. But there’s Fes, Meknes, Chefchaouen, Tangier, Rabat and Casablanca to explore to this Grand Moroccan Adventure. Itinerary Disclaimer The information in this dossier has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and Babel Travel. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one that’s featured in the brochure. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travelers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you print a final copy of your dossier to review a couple of days prior to travel; in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated trip notes please visit our website: www.babeltravel.com Trip Map: Itinerary Days 1-2 Marrakech Arrive and check into your hotel. Your tour leader will leave a notice in the hotel reception with information for our all important welcome meeting, scheduled for 1pm on day 1. You will need to bring with you your passport, all tour vouchers and a copy of your insurance policy to this meeting so that your tour leader can obtain important details that are essential to the running of the tour. This meeting will give you an overview of all the exciting things you will be seeing during your tour and include lots of practical information on how to get the most out of your time in Morocco. Important Note: it is a condition of joining our tours that you are in possession of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. If you do not have a policy you will be required to purchase one from your tour leader in order to join the tour. After the welcome meeting why not head into the heart of Marrakesh - the Djemaa el-Fna, a square unlike any other in the world. Charming, chaotic and charismatic, Marrakech has a truly unique atmosphere. Heaving with activity, Djemaa el Fna, the central square, has been a meeting point for centuries. Your senses will go wild over the sights, sounds and smells. Packed full of traders, Berber musicians, acrobats, snake charmers, witch doctors, wise men, and tooth pullers, the square’s hypnotic charm will soon rub off on you. There's no better way to experience Djemaa el Fna than to sample the local specialities on offer at the night- time food stalls. With lights flickering and smoke rising, watching the hive of activity from a café overlooking the square is the ideal way to capture the mystical atmosphere. Marrakech has lots more to offer with souqs bursting with Moroccan crafts, the immense Koutoubia Mosque, and countless museums, palaces, gardens and cultural sites. After a hectic day, head to the haven of the Marjorelle Gardens, full of cacti and vivid blue buildings, or have a sunset drink in the gardens of La Mamounia Hotel Days 3-4 Essaouira Leaving the magical Marrakesh behind, we head towards the windswept Atlantic Coast and Essaouira in a local bus (3 hours). The name 'Essaouira' means image, appropriate since Essaouira resembles a perfect photo. Its charm is certainly undeniable. Within the stone ramparts you'll find whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters, art galleries and wood workshops. This laid-back artist's town was once a Portuguese trading colony, its foundations laid out in the 18th century by a French architect held captive. It was also home to sizeable British and Jewish populations. The town faces a group of rocky islands and is surrounded by an expanse of sandy beaches and dunes. Although no longer a trading centre, Essaouira is still a busy fishing town. Its pretty harbour is filled with tiny, colourful boats which go out early every morning for the day's catch. Visitors who have been seduced by its charms include Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix, who (according to local legend) spent much of his time here in the 1960s. While in Essaouira you can hire a local guide who will take you on a tour through the town (approx. 3 hours) teaching us its history and preparing us for any shopping we may indulge in tomorrow! Day 4 is a free day to soak up Essaouira's romantic ambience, and browse the plentiful shops and intriguing art galleries that make this little town a particularly pleasant place to unwind for a few days. It has a growing reputation for its unique art and is becoming even more famous for its burled thuya wood - delicately formed and inlaid in tiny shops, which are built into the thick walls of the Portuguese ramparts. The scent from the oils used to polish the richly-coloured wood permeates the air so a stroll around this part of town is very pleasant. Everything in the small town centre is within walking distance and the beaches are quite clean. Don't miss the opportunity to go to a hammam or local style bath to be spoilt with a good scrub, a mud pack and a relaxing massage with Argan oil. A freshly-cooked plate of the day's catch afterwards is highly recommended. Essaouira has also become famous for its windsurfing so if you're game, give it a go. If you prefer something less adventurous, a stroll along the long, sandy, windswept beach is another option. Day 5 Taroudannt Leaving on a local bus we travel south to the picturesque red walled town of Taroudannt. (3 hours) Upon arrival in Taroudannt, your leader will guide you through the Old Quarter, showing you the main places of this ‘little Marrakesh. Youll enjoy soaking up the relaxed ambience of Taroudannt beyond soaking up the atmosphere and strolling through Old Town. Be sure to visit the vibrant Berber markets,.especially interesting in the late afternoon Why not hire a bicycle and visit the nearby villages – all fascinating in their own right. Days 6-7 High Atlas Mountains On the morning of day 6, we journey over the spectacular Tizi-n-Test Pass to the scenic Toubkal National Park (approx. 4 hours). Our route takes us along a road that hugs the side of a broad valley to the remote village of Imlil. Storing our main luggage here, and with just our small packs we make the steep 1-hour climb to Armed and the mountain gite which will be our home for the next 2 nights. Armed is located above the main village of Imlil and features spectacular views of High Atlas mountains and wide valleys If you are not that fit there is always the opportunity to climb up by mule. On arrival in Armed, we receive a warm welcome from our local friends. Facilities at the gite are shared - both the bathroom and sleeping arrangements - but very comfortable. Regardless of your level of fitness, the relaxed pace of the Atlas Mountains and the Berber world are open to you. It is a special place beyond the reach of the modern world – a moment to savouir. Chat to locals in the village hamman, enjoy the majestic views, or for the ladies have some traditional henna decorations on your hands or feet and gossip with the Berber girls in their kitchen!. While there they will show you the best way to prepare cous-cous – the dish youll be eating later that night. After this meal you can let your hair down and enjoy some Berber singing and dancing!. Day 7 is free for you to explore the surrounding area. Options include 3 to 7 hour treks to nearby villages and mountain passes. Otherwise, you can stop for tea at the nearby Kasbah de Toubkal, now a boutique hotel. Day 8 Ait Benhaddou On the morning of day 8 we say goodbye to our new found friends in Aremd and travel over the Tizi n Tichka pass to the film capital of Morocco, Ouarzazate, and the country's most famous Kasbah, Ait Benhaddou(5 hours).Famed as the centre of Morocco’s film industry, there are several studios in town and if you've seen a Hollywood movie with a desert scene in it lately, it may well have been shot in Ouarzazate. The rugged mountains surrounding Ouarzazate attract today’s filmmakers, but the city originated as an isolated French military post, intent on suppressing the local Berber tribes. While in Ouarzazate we visit a local charity, responsible for the livelihoods of poor villages. Appearing out of the harsh desert landscape, your first glimpse of Ait Benhaddou will be of a spectacular collection of Kasbahs perched upon a hilltop. You’ll soon realise just why film-makers were attracted here to film movies such as 'Gladiator', 'Jesus of Nazareth' and 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Explore the village in the late afternoon light and wind your way slowly up to the agadir (grain storehouse), for a beautiful view of the valley below. We spend the night in a hotel overlooking this great fortified village. Day 9 Dades Gorge Nomad Stay The unique architectural feature of the south, the Kasbah, is a stunning sight to behold in the midst of the stark desert landscape. Kasbahs are found in large numbers throughout the valleys of southern Morocco. This is particularly true of the Dades Valley, which has been dubbed the 'Valley of 1000 Kasbahs'. Built to defend profitable trade routes, these fortified family dwellings have housed Berber tribes for centuries. Constructed from the natural surroundings, with mud walls and palm structures, they feature intricately decorated turrets and Berber tattoos carved into the walls. Either beautifully restored or slowly eroding back to the earth, the Kasbahs will be one of the most memorable sights from your time in south Morocco Tonight we stay in a nomad tent and experience life of Nomadic people of Southern Morocco. It’s a wonderful insight into lives of these rapidly disappearing tribal groups, Days 10-11 Todra Gorge Day 10 begins with a drive to the majestic Todra Gorge (2 hours) - a massive fault in the plateau dividing the High Atlas from the Jebel Saghro with a crystal-clear river emerging from it. We arrive around lunchtime and in the afternoon you could go for a walk through the lush palmeraies, or try your hand at rock climbing. On the morning of day 11, you can take an optional take a leisurely walk through the beautiful Todra Valley – a lush green oasis nestled between towering red cliffs. Sampling the delicious local fruit, chatting to local women at work in the fields, and exploring the abandoned kasbahs which are fast eroding into the earth, you’ll see Berber life at its best and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in Morocco For the less energetic, you can relax by the hotel pool, enjoying with spectacular views of the surrounding palmeraies and the ocre red soaring cliff faces of the Gorge. While in the Todra Gorge we’ll have an opportunity to visit a family house for cooking demonstration of couscous and tajine. Lots of fun and a chance to try out your cooking skills!. Leaving the Todra Gorge, we’ll visit a centre for the handicapped, a major charity in the area. Day 12 Desert Camp Today we travel east towards the magnificent Sahara Desert(5 hours) Bathed in the glow of afternoon light, the golden dunes of Erg Chebbi rise dramatically 50m from the desert floor. They run in a line almost perfectly north-south to the village of Merzouga and beyond, and mark the western fringe of the Sahara Desert, dividing Morocco from Algeria. Riding a camel is an essential part of the desert experience. Hang on tight as they heave themselves to their feet, and then relax into the rhythm and enjoy the camel’s-eye view of the desert. Travelling by camel caravan you’ll enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the golden dunes of Erg Chebbi. You'll need a small daypack to carry water and a few personal items, and we recommend that you wear loose cotton clothing with long sleeves and long trousers. Upon arrival at the dunes themselves, you can scale them on foot – that’s if you’re energetic enough!. Climb the dunes for sunrise or sunset to watch the light and colour of the sands change. As the stars come out you can often hear distant tribal drumming in the still night. We spend the night in a traditional Berber tent, and enjoy the local hospitality and music. Facilities are basic, but the tranquillity of the desert and the spectacle of the changing colours of the dunes will more than make up for it. Mattresses and simple bedding with sheets and blankets are provided in the tents Day 13 Ziz Valley Farmstay Day 13 sees us heading towards the Middle Atlas Mountains and the territory made famous by the French Foreign Legion. Our route takes us to to the stunning Ziz Valley(5 hours). The Ziz Valley is a spectacular chasm filled with curious rock formations. The gorge is dramatically lit by shafts of afternoon sunlight which accentuate its beauty, and from certain points there are wonderful views punctuated by kasbahs and lush oases. "Ziz" (or "gazelle", in the language of the Berbers) is also the name of the beautiful river valley that we’ll follow on our journey today. The valley is a well-known resting place for migrating birds, and the landscape here is most unusual. Tonight we stay as guests of Brahim and his family at their farming home. Our hosts will provide a delicious traditional evening meal served on a low table which we all sit around. This homestay is a wonderful opportunity to learn about life for a rural family and is a great insight into Berber life. Days 14-15 Fes On the morning of day 14 we continue on through the mountains to Fes(6 hours) The Atlas is Morocco’s greatest mountain range and today's drive through stunning scenery will give you a real glimpse into typical life in Morocco. We drive through the picturesque Middle Atlas Mountains, where cedar trees tower over the forests and you may catch a glimpse of the famous Barbary Apes. You'll see the local Berber people herding sheep, working in the fields, and nomadic farmers living in traditional goat-hair tents. We continue on over the High Atlas Mountains where we encounter fortified kasbahs, ochre-coloured towns, black shawled women, and of course the Sahara. The day is just filled with snapshots of traditional Moroccan life We first stop at Kasbah Myriam, a carpet and embroidery workshop run by Franciscan nuns with the aim of providing sustainable employment and healthcare to local Berber women. The wares they produce are beautiful and of high quality, so it's the perfect place to buy a memorable souvenir. Fes is the most complete medieval city in the Arab world. The most ancient of Morocco's Imperial cities, it exists suspended in time. In the afternoon there is an opportunity for a guided walk of Fes. The oldest of the Imperial Cities, and one of the holiest cities in the Islamic World, Fes is steeped in ancient charm. Fes is divided into three distinct parts. Fes El Djedid (New city), established in the 13th century, is where you'll find most of the royal palaces, gardens and museums. For those with extra energy, a climb to the Merenid tombs and a panoramic view of Fes is a must. Then there's the Ville Nouvelle, the modern city built by the French in the 20th century, which has tree-lined avenues packed with cafes, fresh juice shops, patisseries and restaurants – the perfect place to relax in the evening and watch the Fassis (people of Fes) pass by. But the real Morocco is captured in Fes el Bali (Old Fes), in the labyrinth of 9400 narrow, twisting and turning lanes. Wandering through the local souqs is like taking a step back into the Middle Ages, as the locals go about their work the same way they would have done 1200 years ago. The clanging of the copper smiths, the powerful ‘aroma’ of the tanneries, bundles of colourful yarn hanging in the dyers souq, children carrying trays of bread balanced neatly on their heads and the cries of ‘balak, balak!’ or ‘attention’ which send you scrambling to hug the walls, well out of the way of heavily laden mules. Fes El Bali also has its share of elaborate buildings; in particular the old medersa or religious colleges which combine the beauty of Morocco’s artisan skills with intricate mosaic tiles, carefully carved stucco and elaborately decorated cedar wood ceilings. Tonight, we may head to the Palais Jamai for an evening drink. Watching the sun set over the huge medina whilst a dozen prayer calls vie for attention is an experience you are likely to remember forever. Tonight there is the chance to have the most amazing dinner trying Moroccan specialties like Harira (chickpea soup) and chicken-stuffed Pastilla with Couscous at our friends house. Day 15 is free for you to explore nearby Volibilis and the pilgrim village of Moulay Idriss. Volubilis was Rome’s most southerly outpost, a far-flung base in the midst of Morocco’s hills and valleys. Set in a picturesque valley, Volubilis once supplied 60% of Rome’s wheat and olives. Exploring this ancient civilization is a real treat and we see magnificent mosaics and ruins of ancient Roman villas and temples. Moulay Idriss, one of the holiest towns in Morocco and a delightful rural village, is our home for the night and the ideal place to get an insight into traditional Moroccan life Day 16 Meknes Leaving on a local train we reach the grand city of Meknes (1hrs). Meknes is the perfect place to get lost in a traditional souq (market) where you'll find activity at every turn from local saw millers to tentmakers sewing up sacks and colorful canvas; men selling finely ground salt direct from the source; flea markets heaving with everything you could ever need; woodworkers carving elaborate tables; metalworkers creating a din as well as carefully crafted wrought iron products; coppersmiths constructing huge urns big enough to cook enormous feasts; the musical instrument souq, packed full of tam-tams, cymbals and lutes, and carts laden with pomegranates, prickly pears, apples, peaches, melons and chickpeas – in fact you name it, you can find it here! However Meknes doesn’t lack cultural sites. Founded by the most ruthless sultan in Moroccan history, you can visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and his impressive granary, featuring huge vaulted storerooms; the Dar Jamai Museum, with an impressive collection of Moroccan crafts and the Bou Inania Medersa. For the adventurous, you may want to try a camel burger for lunch Days 17-18 Chefchaouen This morning we take a local bus to the beautiful medieval town of Chefchaoeun(5 hours). “Chef” has a very distinctive Spanish feel, as it was founded in 1471 by Moorish exiles from Spain, to serve as a small fortress in fight against the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. The medina is famed as being one of the most charming in Morocco, with its distinctive whitewashed houses, blue-rinsed buildings and 17th century mosque. The slow pace of life here is infectious, as you wander the alleyways you’ll happen upon craftsmen happily sewing kaftans and embroidering jellabahs. The picturesque square is surrounded by souks selling carpets, leather goods, pottery, copper ware and handicrafts that are unique to Chefchaouen, such as wool garments and woven blankets Options include hiking in the Rif Mountains, shopping in the medina, or simply sitting at a cafe and watching the world go by. Day 18 is free for your leisure. Day 19 Tangier In the early afternoon of day 19 we take a local bus (3hrs) to Tangier Tangier, also known as the White City, is a unique and infectiously energetic city. For years Tangier was a tax haven and as such attracted plenty of rich and famous inhabitants, including authors, artists and aristocrats. Although no longer a tax haven, there is still a wealthy element to this resort, which is evident when visiting the port where row upon row of millionaires' yachts can be admired. Tangier offers fantastic shopping opportunities, with numerous markets selling everything you could wish for. The infamous market "casa barata" (the house of cheap things) is full of bargains. The Grand Socco market square is lined with charming street cafes and is a perfect location to absorb city life. To escape the heat of the day take a trip to the Mendoubia Garden which surrounds the Grand Socco Square, here you can unwind and see the remarkable 800 year old banyan tree. While in Tangier take the time to visit the 17th century fortified residential quarter, Kasbah, where you can find arcades, narrow winding alleys, hidden terraces and the homes of the rich. Day 20 Rabat This morning we leave early for Rabat on a local train (1hr). Upon arrival we’ll explore the city's old quarter (3 hrs). Rabat is the country’s capital and political nerve centre. First impressions are often of a bustling European city, with wide boulevards, open-air cafés and stylish suited business people – but that’s only the new town. When you enter the old medina and you discover winding alleys full of treasures, brightly coloured carpet souqs, streets of flowing djellabas and the scents of fresh mint and spices, you know you are in Morocco. Head out of the medina towards the coast and you can’t miss the imposing Kasbah des Oudaias, its cannons still guarding against the pirate gangs that once ruled the River Bou Regreg. Inside the Kasbah you’ll feel like you’re in a different world again – with the blue and white painted houses a reminder of the Andalucian and Mediterranean influences that are so much a part of Rabat’s history. You can take a break in a café overlooking the river – the mint tea and hand-made patisserie here are some of the best. From the Kasbah lookout you can gaze back across the city and you’ll see the great Hassan Tower rising up – the unfinished minaret that is testament to an unfulfilled vision of a great Imperial City. Rabat is an easy city to wander about with lots of contrasts that show you just how diverse Morocco’s history and culture is. A short trip to the nearby old town of Sale is also worthwhile. Days 21-22 Casablanca Taking an early morning train we reach Casablanca. The name Casablanca conjures up many a memory – Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart... but Casablanca the city has much more to offer. A good place to start is the Grand Mosque Hassan II which juts out into the ocean. Although it is a very new complex, here you'll get your first taste of the beauty of Islamic architecture and culture. Why not get off the beaten track to explore the Old Medina, or the Cathedral de Sacre Coeur and Quartier Habous (the New Medina). When the sun goes down you still won't be short of things to do. Take an evening stroll amongst the throngs of people promenading along the sea front and watch the sun go down over the Atlantic; sample one of Casablanca's wide variety of restaurants - whether it be French cuisine, traditional Moroccan fare or the abundant seafood available; or sit in a café over a mint tea in the Habous watching life go by in front of you On the evening of day 21, a final feast awaits (not included). Day 22 is departure day and we say goodbye to Morocco with memories that will last a lifetime. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 10:00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel reception. There may be a small service fee Arrival Complications Arrival transfers are included for all clients arriving in Marrakesh If you have booked your flights separately from your tour please ensure that you inform your tour booking agent of your flight details at least one month before departure to avoid payment of an administration fee. If you have not made contact with our representative(please look for the Babel Travel Logo and your name) within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, as can occasionally occur as many flights tend to arrive at once, please contact our Morocco representative on ??? Give this person your exact location in the airport (find a landmark) and you will be attended to promptly 22.In the very unlikely event that this process fails, you can find taxis at the front of the airport Petite taxis (small cars) are convenient and inexpensive and can easily be arranged with our hotel before you depart the hotel. If arranging the taxi yourself we recommend you negotiate the fare before getting in the taxi. Marrakesh Menara Airport is approx. 6km from the hotel. No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense. Starting Point Hotel TBA Marrakesh Morocco Phone: +41445864077 Starting Point Instructions If for some reason you did not make contact with our transfer officer please get a local taxi from the airport to the start point hotel. The Marrakesh Menara airport is situated about 6 kilometres Petite taxis (small cars) are convenient and inexpensive (50 MAD or 5 EURO) and can easily be arranged at the airport to our start point hotel. If arranging the taxi yourself we recommend you negotiate the fare before getting in the taxi. Finishing Point Hotel Casablanca Morocco Phone:+41445864077 Finishing Point details Please note that private departure transfers are not available for pre-booking through Babel Travel from Casablanca. The airport is situated about 30 kilometres from the city centre and a taxi costs around 25 Euros (250 MAD), alternatively, you can get a local train from the airport into the central station and then get a taxi to the hotel. Your tour leader can assist you with organize this for you. Style Babel Travel Adventurer Live and travel like a local. Stay in simple guesthouses; travel on local buses, trains or just about anything that moves. I count my pennies because I know the more money I save means the longer I get to travel. The best value adventures on the planet! On an Adventurer trip, you can expect some amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions or 'extras' that you may not want. These trips are ideal for first time travellers seeking fun and independence with the security of a group leader at hand and for backpackers wanting minimum hassle and maximum flexibility at the lowest possible price. Group Size Maximum of 12 travellers per group Accommodation Hotels (15 nts), simple multishare guesthouses (2 nts), desert camp (1 nt), nomad camp (1 nt), family farmstay (1nt) Meals While travelling with us you will experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the Morocco. Generally, to give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There is no obligation to do this though. Your group leader will be able to suggest favourite restaurants during your trip. Please check the 'meal inclusions' section below for details of meals included. You will find the meal plan for your tour clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier. Breakfast is often provided, and other meals are included in remote areas. Approximate costs for meals not included are shown below, Simple snack: EURO 2-3 Light meal: EURO 5-8, Three course meal: EURO 13-18 For a guide to the type of food you will find in Morocco see the Local Food and Drink section of this dossier. Drinks Tea and Coffee is always provided with breakfast. All other drinks (i.e. bottled water, soft drinks) are at your own expense. Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below. Note: Prices in restaurants, hotels, and in remote areas can be double those specified. 1.5l of water: EURO .50 EURO, 30cl bottle of soft drink: EURO 1, 33cl bottle of beer: EURO 1-2 It is not recommended that you drink the local tap water in Morocco. However, bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available throughout the country Allow EUR €300 for meals not included. Included Meals 18 Breakfasts, 2 dinners Solo Travelers If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis - where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Connoisseur tours and are not applicable on overnight boats, trains and while camping Getting around Train, private van, taxi, local bus, camel, walking Included Activities This is a list of included activities on this trip. All other activities are optional and at your own expense. For a list of optional activities and sightseeing available on this trip, see the optional activities section below. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded. Included activities - Saharan Camel Safari, Trek in the Todra Gorge. Farmstay in the Ziz Valley. Notes to remember Travelling in Morocco: Morocco is a country which may be very different to anything you have experienced before. Heat, pollution, poverty and the crowds can result in initial culture shock but should be seen as an exciting new challenge. During our time here we have come to love this wonderfully diverse country but we know that we should always expect to encounter some difficulties along the way. In Morocco there are very different attitudes to time keeping, public cleanliness, privacy and service. If you are able to travel with a lot of patience and a sense of humour, then we know that you like all of us will be captivated by Morocco. Alterations to the itinerary: While we operate successful trips in Morocco throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route while you are travelling particularly in the Winter months (November to March). Travel time may be significantly delayed, roads can be closed due to avalanches, heavy snow, ice cover or dense fog or we simply choose an alternative (and longer) route due to safety concerns. Please be prepared for these possible itinerary alterations. Extreme temperatures in Morocco Please note that as a desert country, Morocco can have extreme weather! Summer (approximately April to September) can be very hot everywhere we travel. Winter (approximately November to March) can be freezing. It is recommended to bring a good sleeping bag, thermals, scarf, gloves and a warm jacket for travel in this period. Some of our guesthouses/hotels do not supply heating. This would be a major financial and environmental strain on our hotels and the local towns. It is also a case of energy supply and timing provisions, which is limited in some places. Please be prepared for cold showers Breakfasts included: There are some simple breakfasts included on this trip which comprises simply of bread, butter, jam, coffee/tea and juice. This is typical of breakfasts in hotels in Morocco Local breakfasts are available for the more adventurous at nearby markets. Staying in touch: Please be aware that telephone calls made from hotel rooms are extremely expensive. We advise you do not rely on hotel telephones to communicate while travelling. Use local phones or call shops, or rely on the internet. Departure from Marrakesh: For those of you that are flying out of Marrakesh: Trains from Casablanca to Marrakesh, depart on the hour every 2 hours between 5:00am and 9:00pm and cost EUR8 for 2nd class and EUR12 for 1st class. The trip is scheduled to take 3 hours, but can experience delays. Check the useful website for more information - www.oncf.ma Local Transport Babel Travel adventures uses every form of local transport available. We feel that this is the best way to get a feel for the country by travelling the way the locals do. Whether its by local train, bus, taxi, ferry or donkey – travelling the local way will not on give you a true taste of the country but will leave you with great experiences to last a lifetime. Accommodation: Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties. At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements.. Ramadan: The important month long Ramadan festival will be in progress from 2 September to 28 September 2008. This is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at all popular tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you definitely need to expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month of Ramadan is a fantastic month to travel in Muslim countries as it offers a chance to witness the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Early check-in throughout the trip: Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, however this is not always possible which means we will not be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. Additional Accommodation: If you have purchased pre or post trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights. Arrival and Departure Transfers: Please note that only arrival transfers are included in this trip. Expense in Morocco: Morocco is often misjudged as being an inexpensive destination. With tourism booming, the influx of cheap flights from Europe, prices for some items are becoming more equivalent to prices you would be used to at home. Eating in local restaurants, road side stalls and from markets can be inexpensive, but for nights out at tourist friendly restaurants you can expect to pay much more. With drinks, tipping and of course - shopping, it can all add up. Budgets are a personal choice but please bare in mind that you should not expect Morocco to be a budget destination. Insurance Our tour prices do not include insurance. However, it is a condition of joining our tours that travellers are fully insured for any medical expenses they might incur while travelling. At the start of your tour the Tour Leader will ask to see your insurance documents and will note down the policy number and emergency contact number. We recommend a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers repatriation and evacuation in case of a medical emergency, cancellation and curtailment as well as covering baggage and valuables. If your tour involves certain adventurous activities (i.e. trekking, whitewater rafting, house building or scuba diving etc.) you will need to make sure your policy specifically covers these activities. You may also need specific cover for expensive camera equipment. Many credit card companies offer complementary travel insurance. However the majority of such policies offer virtually no cover and cannot be accepted as adequate travel insurance. If you are planning on using credit card insurance you must bring along proof that the policy covers medical emergencies. Failure to be able to provide such proof to the Tour Leader will result in you being compelled to purchase a new approved policy before you can join the tour. If your travel insurance was not purchased from Babel Travel or our agents, you will be required to sign a waiver absolving the company and its agents should your policy not be adequate. Any clients unable to provide proof of adequate travel insurance cover will be required to purchase a policy or will not be allowed to join the tour. Most insurers require a local police report to support claims for loss of or damage to personal property. Our office can only issue a letter verifying that personal items have been lost or damaged on tour of 50 Euro in value and the tour leader was informed of the loss or damage at the time that it occurred Please also make sure you have access to an additional EURO 400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route. This is a rare occurrence but it is well worth being prepared! Visas Most nationalities (including EU nationalities) can obtain a free Moroccan visa valid for up to 90 days on arrival. If the visa application form requires a contact address in the destination, please give either your meeting point hotel or the address of our local contact It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of the correct visas for your holiday and onward travel. Babel Travel cannot accept responsibility for anyone who is refused entry to a country because they lack the correct documentation Please note that visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change. It is important that you check for yourself. Health All travellers joining our tours are assumed to be in good health and to have a sufficient level of fitness to complete their chosen itinerary. If you have an existing medical condition or disability you must make this known at the time of booking. If accepted on the tour, you must also make your condition known to the Tour Leader. When selecting your trip please carefully read the Babel Travel brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org should you require any clarification on what is involved on your itinerary. For travellers over 70 years a completed Babel Medical certificate is required. Babel Travel reserves the right to turn away, without recompense, any person who is found, at any time during their trip, to have concealed an existing medical condition. We also reserve the right to turn away any person who we consider incapable of completing the trip. If you are taking any form of medication, please make sure that you bring with you an adequate supply to last the duration of your holiday and inform your Tour Leader at the start of the tour. You might not be able to obtain suitable medication in the countries you are visiting There are no specific health requirements for this trip. However, you should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. It is up to you to bring along a personal supply of basic medical items like plasters, aspirin, insect repellent etc. In areas of limited or suspect medical facilities, some travellers also like to take their own emergency medical kit which can be used by the local medical staff in case of accident or illness. Our Tour Leaders carry a comprehensive First Aid Kit (including a sterile pack) for emergencies, but do not dispense medicines. Drinking water: As a rule we recommend you do not drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for travellers from places other continents drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this is not serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it is enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available. Asthma: For some travelers The Sahara sands can bring on bouts of asthma. If you suffer from asthma even occasionally, we recommend you bring your medication as it cannot be administered by your group leader and may not be readily available while you are travelling. Are you ready for this adventure? On most of our itineraries there are long travel days and some rough travelling in areas away from main tourist routes. High passes, windy roads and rough surfaces make for some challenging travel experiences. If you experience travel sickness we recommend you consider medication to help ease the discomfort. On some long travel days we depart very early in the morning to ensure we optimize our time at our next destination. There will be a variety of temperatures ranging from extreme cold in the evenings and during the day in the winter months to oppressive heat in the summer, particularly during the day. Please be prepared for extreme temperatures and pack accordingly. If you commonly feel discomfort or suffer health issues when experiencing either freezing or extremely hot temperatures, consider if this trip is right for you. A decent level of fitness is recommended and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip. Money There are a wide variety of different ways that you can obtain or carry money overseas, including credit cards, ATM cards and cash. Traveller's cheques are a useful back-up which are popular for security reasons but they can be difficult to change in some countries. For more information on what we recommend for the specific destination that you are travelling to, check your Country Dossier Do carry some cash – a small amount is often useful in more remote regions. It is a good idea to obtain a small amount of the currency of the country you are visiting prior to arrival as this can be very useful for any immediate expenses. If you can’t obtain currency in advance, you will usually find banking services in the Arrivals Hall of the airport, port or border post, though these won’t necessarily be open 24 hours a day. You should try to carry at least some of your money in small denominations so that you can change only the amount you will actually need. EUROS are widely accepted around the world. This is particularly important near the end of your holiday as it is sometimes difficult to change back surplus local currency. We regret that regional Babel Travel offices cannot accept traveller's cheques as payment for services booked while on tour. They can accept Visa and Mastercard, subject to a minimum transaction of 200 EUROS While some banks and 5 star hotels will change travellers' cheques the process is very time consuming and commissions can be high (up to 10%) and it is difficult to change Travellers' cheques on weekends and public holidays. The easiest cheques to change are Thomas Cook or American Express in USD. Cash in EUR, CHF and USD dollars are favoured for exchange. Morocco has no black market. Current exchange rate as of September 2008 Morocco: EURO $1 = 11.3 MAD (Moroccan Dirhams) While travelling with Babel Travel we recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services and tips. Change can be difficult to obtain so throughout the day, try to gain as many small denominations as you can to make group meals easier to pay for. Coins will also prove very convenient in this tipping culture. For money safety we recommend that you carry your cash and credit cards in a secure money belt or pouch concealed under your clothing. Spending Money Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip. Any tip that you wish to give your local guides or leader in recognition of excellent service is always appreciated. Optional Excursions All of our itineraries include some free time, the amount of which usually depends on the style of tour you are travelling on. Although we do not arrange any specific optional excursions in Morocco, there is plenty of free time for you to undertake activities not covered specifically in the itinerary. You should allow approx. US$15-20 per week for extra activities. Belows list covers the more popular excursions that past travelers have taken Hassan II Mosque (Casablanca) - MAD 120 Hammam/Turkish bath - MAD 60 - 180 Trekking/Mountain guides (Chefchaouen, Todra, Imlil) - MAD 250 Local City Guides (Fes, Essaouira, Marrakesh) - MAD 150 - 250 Heri S Souani Granaries (Meknes) - MAD 10 Bou Inania Medersa (Fes) - MAD 10 Rockclimbing (Todra) - MAD 200 Mountain Biking (Todra) - MAD 200 Atlas studios (Ouarzazate) - MAD 50 Cooking demonstration and family visit (Ait Benhaddou) - MAD 100 Kasbah entrance (Chefchaouen) - MAD 10 Medersas and Museums (Marrakesh) - MAD 10 - 30 Jardin Majorelle (Marrakesh) - MAD 30 Cascades d'Ouzoud day trip (Marrakesh) - MAD 250 If you are happy with the services provided by your local leader, guides and drivers a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Babel Travel destinations. Please consider this when budgeting for your extra expenses on this trip. Departure Tax All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket. Communication Email Internet cafes can now be found almost everywhere in Morocco. The cost for an hour is approx EURO 1. Phone The Moroccan phone system is fairly good, although international calls can be expensive. A 3 minute call (to Europe) will cost approx. EURO 8 from a hotel and approx. EURO 5 from a telephone centre (called a teleboutique). Post The postal service is relatively good and stamps are available everywhere. An overseas stamp for postcards will cost approx. EURO 1. Posting of parcels can be time-consuming however, and contents of parcels normally have to pass customs inspection before they are sealed for posting We don't recommend that family and friends try to contact you through hotels, as they are subject to change and the reception staff may not speak German/French/English. Emergency Contact In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Babel Travel’s Switzerland Office can be reached on Tel: +41 ??? Your fellow travelers As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Tour Leader Your Babel Travel leader will be German or French speaking A Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager. In Morocco we also use the services of specialist guides at sights of particular historical interest, and specialized mountain guides for any trekking/ hiking activities in mountain regions. At Babel Travel we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit - and who better to hear it from than the locals themselves? If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture then your leader can recommend a local guide service in the most of the main destinations of your trip. Responsible travel We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimize the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Drugs and the law The possession or use of any illegal drugs is strictly prohibited in all the countries we visit. When overseas you are subject to local laws and the penalties for breaking the law are severe. In order to safeguard the interests of the group as a whole, our Tour Leaders are instructed to insist that any person found to be in possession of drugs leave the group immediately. The Tour Leader’s decision on this matter is final. If you need to carry certain drugs with you for purposes of medication, please ensure that you also carry a copy of your prescription Babel’s philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter, and in particular the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes. Responsible Travel in Morocco In Morocco we have built strong links with local communities, craftspeople, animal hospitals, artists, and the handicapped - all of which directly rely on the assistance of donations and products purchased by our travellers and other visitors. We offer Babel travellers an opportunity to interact with locals, to value their activities and crafts and help towards sustaining their livelihoods. Laundry Some of our hotels offer a laundry service however this can be expensive. Self-service laundries are scarce in this region. We recommend you bring bio-degradable laundry soap and hand wash while travelling on your trip. Ask your leader who can point out the best places to do your laundry on the trip. They are usually at any 2 night stop to allow enough time for drying. What to Take What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking though, you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage (please see below for exceptions), and though you will not be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes) we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg/22lb. Suitcases are not recommended for Babel travellers! Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags with wheels are acceptable, although we recommend your bag has carry straps as well, as you may be required to negotiate bus and railway station steps. You will also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day walks and day trips. It is important that your bags can be locked, as on the trains and boats it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (an unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag is the better for you and other passengers on local transport, for when it comes to traveling on local buses and trains its usually only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your seat. So to get maximum comfort, pack small and light. Sleeping bags consume valuable space in your luggage. However in the winter months (from November to March) there is not enough heating (sometimes none) and not enough blankets to keep everyone warm, so please bring your sleeping bag. Unfortunately they can not be hired/rented while on the trip and are not easy to find for purchase. Buy a small sleeping bag before you leave, it will definitely come in handy. Temperatures in Morocco are generally hot and with little rain. This can become extreme towards and during the summer months of May to August. A hat is essential. In the months from November to March it can be very cool at night particularly in the mountains or near the desert where night temperatures can drop to 5 degrees Celsius or less. Even in the hot months out in the desert it can get cold at night. Checklist The following checklist is to be used as a guide only and is not intended to be a complete packing list. Any other items that you wish to pack are at your own discretion however you should attempt to comply with the suggested luggage weight limit. Travel documents: passport, visa, travel insurance, air tickets, voucher Health requirements/medication Money: cash/credit card/ travellers cheques, money pouch First aid kit Sunscreen (with high sun protection factor and lip balm Sunglasses Wide brim hat or umbrella Antibacterial hand gel Day pack to carry your personal needs during the day A lock for your pack Comfortable shoes with good grip and ankle support Trekking trousers (the type with zip off legs are ideal) Alarm clock and torch/flashlight Lightweight travel towel Ear plugs can be useful if you are a light sleeper A scarf or face mask for dust Local language phrase book IN SUMMER: May to October Light fleece Sleep sheet Trekking sandals IN WINTER: November to March/April Sleeping bag Sleep sheet A heavy fleece/polar fleece Warm clothes, scarf, thermals, gloves, hat, jacket Please check recent temperatures before your trip departs: Babel Travel leaders collect clothing for poorer village communities. If you have room in your luggage, warm children's clothes and shoes are particularly appreciated. Local Dress As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In Morocco's hot summer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. You should bear in mind that Morocco has conservative attitudes towards dress, particularly in remote areas. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women. It is advisable to keep legs, shoulders and upper arms covered, and we recommend that you bring appropriate clothing for this purpose. Safety By choosing to travel with Babel Travel you can be sure that your safety and well-being is our prime concern. Over the years we have built up a network of local offices, and a team of Destination Managers, local and non- local staff enables us to maintain constant contact with events on the ground in each of our destinations, and to ensure that every aspect of your tour runs as smoothly as possible. If you find yourself worrying far too much about all the terrible things that might happen to you while travelling overseas, remember that generally overseas travel is very safe and group travel even more so. If you have not done much travelling before, a few simple guidelines may be useful: Personal Safety Enjoy your time in a new environment – don’t worry yourself sick. Conversely, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. The best advice is simply to take the same precautions you would when travelling in your own country. You’re Belongings Although it can be traumatic and distressing to lose personal belongings, remember that almost everything can be replaced. Your valuables are your responsibility so look after them. Keep items like cash, traveller's cheques, tickets and passports on your person in a hidden money belt or stored in the hotel safe. Leave all non-essential jewellery at home. Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's Safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips: www.babeltravel.com Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities however during your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Babel Travel itinerary, and Babel Travel makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Babel Travel operational safety policy at www.babeltravel.com We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it is being implemented in the field. Fire exits: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in the Middle East differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit. Petty theft and personal safety: Please be aware that while travelling in the region of North Africa and the Middle East there is the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing. Traffic and driving on opposite sides of the road: Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware on the roads and even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Camels and Donkeys and Bicycles: Professional riding equipment and helmets will not be provided when riding any camels or donkeys. Bicycle helmets (when provided) may not be the same standard that you are used to at home. If you are particularly concerned for your safety while riding a bicycle then we recommend you bring your own helmet. Participation form All Babel travelers are required to sign a Participation Form on day 1 of the trip. Please note that signing the form is a prerequisite of travelling with Intrepid. The wording of this form follows: "I understand that travelling with Babel Travel may involve risks (and rewards) above and beyond those encountered on a more conventional holiday, and that I am undertaking an adventure trip with inherent dangers. I understand that I am travelling to geographical areas where, amongst other things, the standard of accommodation, transport, safety, hygiene, cleanliness, medical facilities, telecommunications and infrastructure development may not be of the standard I am used to at home or would find on a conventional holiday. I have read and understood the Babel trip notes for the trip I am undertaking and have provided details of any pre-existing medical conditions I accept these risks and obligations and I fully assume the risks of travel. I release Babel Travel from any liabilities connected to these risks to the maximum extent permitted by law." Feedback After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed on-line within 4 weeks of finishing your trip. Go to: www.babeltravel.com Thanks!